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Archive for the ‘Just Fun’ Category

It is said that on All Hallows Eve (Halloween) the veil is the thinnest between the realms of the living and the dead, and we are most able to be in touch with our ancestors/loved ones on the other side. Whether this is true or not, whether you believe it or not, it is a magical time when anything seems possible.

Have a great day!

p.s. This is my final drawing for Inktober. Done!

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More and more I realize how everything we choose is moving us forward on our path. Whether it’s who we meet, what we read, what we listen to, where we go, what we dream about … it’s all moving us forward and serving our mental, spiritual, and emotional evolution.

For example, this month, I have committed to Inktober, an October challenge to create a new pen and ink drawing each day and post it on Instagram. I am sharing four with you, but I have faithfully drawn every day. I’m using this to get my creativity going, to get the feeling of what it’s like to draw on a regular basis, plus I love pen and ink. There are things I plan to do, and Inktober appeared to me. Right on time.

I have been trying to see more art, and have finally been able to get back to Grounds for Sculpture, a 42-acre outdoor museum for contemporary sculpture and arboretum. I’ll share a few of the beautiful pieces i saw …

And when I can’t get out to see art, I am finding it online, especially on Instagram. Instagram, of all social media, is highly visual and a great fit for me as an artist, photographer, and illustrator. But it has also been a constant source of positive and inspiring messages that uplift my mind and spirit, and I try to share them with whoever stops in and visits me. If interested, I am @jeannebalsam.

In reading, we also grow. I have picked up four books recently, and left off on three – I chose them at one time, but they are not where I am now. The fourth, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, is written in letters back and forth between characters in the years following WWII, and about how life was affected in the Channel Islands by the German occupation. It’s rich and funny and heartfelt, and also about how reading connects us all. It received unanimous glowing reviews. Go look; it’s excellent.

And music – finding and listening to new, all that speaks to me now. Music is so healing, whether music for meditation or Indie/pop, whatever it is, keep music in your life. And dancing … mostly in the kitchen, to my phone. It makes me happy. Tried it?

When I don’t post for a while, it does become an epistle, so I’ll leave you here with the thought to remember to feed your life well in all you do. And also a video – Dancing with My Phone. This is from HYBS, a duo you will see in the odd (and inexplicable to me) Christmas moment. I hope it makes you smile … and turn up your phone.

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The pandemic and other factors in all our lives have affected us and often left us feeling “trapped inside” and missing what we used to do. Personally, I am done with it. I need to go out and see the world again (carefully, of course). To that end, I went out this morning to a vegan place for breakfast I’ve been wanting to try and for a visit to see some art at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, NJ.

Above are The Three Graces by Toshiko Takaezu at the front of the museum, the side view, and an untitled piece by Noriko Sakuyama.

As I’ve spent quite a bit of time in photo prep, I am going to refer you to the museum’s website to learn more about the artists’ work, if interested.

One of the pieces by Maxwell Mustardo in his Dish-Oriented exhibit.

Above are several images by Rina Bannerjee: Blemish, In Deep Pink Everyplace Begins, both sculptural and drawing. The last image was a discussion if the Chinese Lanterns in a 3-D piece were real or constructed by the artist.

This marble bust is best described by the accompanying text. You can see more of this installation on Instagram @jeannebalsam, if interested.

There was also an exhibit of some student work on the third floor.

Above are images of the Red Mill, an iconic landmark in Clinton, just across from the museum on the other side of the South Branch of the Raritan River. At the base of the waterfall, if you hadn’t caught it right away, is a Blue Heron, wading.

Okay, I’ve been out! Soaked in some sunshine, had a wonderful visit with a friend and some art, plus a great breakfast — what more could one want?

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In 2008, Matt Harding, one of the greatest goodwill ambassadors of all time, in my opinion, posted a video of him dancing – “dancing badly” in his words – with people all around the world. In 14 months, he danced with children and adults of every color and nationality, indigenous peoples, even a whale, (and occasionally alone) in 42 countries.

In the face of so much sadness in our world, the memory of Matt Harding somehow returned to me. I cannot watch this without tears running down my face, because of the sheer joy of so many people happily sharing a simple love of dancing. Here’s 2008’s dance. Please watch full screen or theater mode, for even those not dancing are great to watch.

In 2012, he posted another world tour, this time dancing across the U.S., Europe, and beyond, even on the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Pacific Ocean. But he’s also in Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea, China, Russia, Rwanda, Iraq – countries where you might not expect him to be. And it’s all the same – people dancing with such joy. It does make you wonder why we stumble so as a human race, when this is all people want – to be happy.

So please take a minute and put a smile on your face (happy tears permitted!), maybe even get up and dance.

If you want to learn more, visit Where the Hell Is Matt? (later changed to Where the Heck Is Matt?). Can we please have more goodwill ambassadors like Matt Harding?

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My last post was quite lengthy, so for this one, I’ll be quite brief. Just some thoughts for a happy holiday weekend and beyond.

Go out and find some fabulous local produce at a farmer’s market or farmstand and enjoy the bounty of the season!

Get around to the gardening you’ve been waiting to do! (Or in my case, pot the poor plants that have been waiting way too long to look fabulous!)

If planning an outing, find a good crafts or art show where local artisans are showcasing their wares. Like this fabulous Lemon Peel Soap I came across recently by a local soap maker. Support your local artists!

No matter how busy you may be – or not be –

make some time for your furry small fry.

And above all – and which may include all of the above – take the advice on this journal given me by a dear friend – Do more of what makes you happy!

Happy July 4th!

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Without a doubt, Jazzy is the most demanding and vocal-about-it animal – cat or dog – that I have ever had the pleasure of sharing my life with.

But then … she has a ridiculous amount of patience (especially for a cat) and humors her silly Mom and lets me do this … and waits while I get the camera. Animals never cease to surprise and amaze me. It’s why we love them.

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Friday night marked the end of an extremely hectic and  stressful work week. How do you know it was stressful?

I just kept throwing the mail in a pile, unopened. I checked for bills and anything of a personal nature – other than that, it would have to wait.

The two small bags of goodies I’d purchased at the annual Tinicum Arts Festival were still sitting in the exact same place they were when I brought them home last Sunday afternoon.

But perhaps most amazing – and a sure sign of excessive busyness – I had ice cream in the freezer from last week’s shopping and forgot all about it! Now that’s really just kind of sad. I mean, how does that even happen?

But let’s go back to Tinicum. The Tinicum Arts Festival is an annual event in PA just on the other side of the river and south about 10 miles or so. The 2 day fair hosts many crafters, artisans, and artists all of whose work is excellent quality. I try and go every year, if not to buy, then just to browse and chat with fellow artists.

This very talented potter has been coming for several years now and I remember her from last year. Above is a sample of her horsehair work, a vase. All her work is just lovely, and truly are pieces of art.

I went to the festival with a few things in mind that I hoped I might find. One, a pair of pierced earrings with silver and black. I have plenty of earrings that I am very fond of and wear often, but when I am wearing black, I really have nothing to go along. This vendor had a great selection of beautifully crafted jewelry using crystals plus a good assortment of earrings at very reasonable prices. I chose this sweet pair of mermaids sitting on a black sphere. And checked off one of the things I was looking for.

I also wanted to find something relatively inexpensive as a surprise for my brother and sister-in-law’s anniversary. I don’t traditionally buy them anything for this occasion, but I felt like sending along something small and unexpected – something that would put a smile on their face.

This petite earthenware plaque was one of many available, all of which had short phrases and quotes on them. Some I might have liked for myself, but didn’t think they would be too crazy about. But how cute is this one? Not to mention perfect for an anniversary. Check!

Now we come to possibly the biggest challenge. One of the first vendors we came upon was a maker of hand-crafted soaps and other toiletries. One of the things I’d had in mind for the anniversary couple was a nice handmade soap. She had so many scents! As with all handcrafted soaps at events such as these, they’re made with high quality oils and other pure ingredients, and are so much more wonderful than the usual array of soaps we come across.

The seller offered a slight discount for three bars, so I bought three – almond, orange coconut, and black raspberry vanilla. Talk about fabulous. The challenge I mentioned? Will I actually be able to part with one or maybe be a little selfish and keep them all for myself? You didn’t hear it, but I just let out a huge sigh there. Of course, I’ll send them one – they’ll love it. But which one?

 

The black raspberry vanilla was just too heavenly and truly smells like its name. Just look at that delicious swirl!

The Arts Festival really seems to grow every year with more and different vendors and craftspeople than before. A new Bonsai fellow was there with his perfectly manicured living pieces of art and was a delight to chat with, plus many others – makers of pottery and homemade foods, painters,  photographers, stained glass artisans – it’s just always a wonderful event. And at the end of this very busy week, I can finally enjoy all “the little things” I was so lucky to find. Not just my purchases, but a beautiful day, time well-spent with a friend, and the enjoyment of having been around so much creativity.

We need little things – it’s good to be happy.

 

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If your life is anything like mine, it’s hard to find time to do some of the special things we love. Among them for me, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is baking. Today I had changed my plans and decided to make some muffins. From scratch, of course. Chocolate chip muffins.

I searched through my collected recipes, but did not find one for chocolate chip muffins. Everything but. So I turned to my good friend Betty Crocker. No matter how many cookbooks I have or how often I’ll search out a recipe online, I will never be without a Betty Crocker or Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Why? Because it always has so much basic cooking and baking information as well as a variety of recipes both easy and complicated to make. Forgot how long to poach an egg? How many tablespoons of butter are in 1/3 cup? How many cups of chopped nuts you’ll get from a 1 lb. bag? And although these things can always be found online, the internet can be a big time suck and have me looking at all kinds of things I don’t need to be looking at. Just give me the facts, Betty, and I’m good.

I looked up Betty’s basic muffins, and they seemed a little too basic to me. Soooo … I went online to a place where I’ve had great muffin success in the past – Mr. Breakfast. And right there on the home page was #1 of their Top 20 Favorite Recipes – chocolate chip muffins. OK, I’m in!  I read glowing reviews and then compared them to Betty’s version; Mr. B’s are sweeter and more fattening to be sure – butter instead of traditional oil, and a bit more sugar. I’m still in.

The bottom line here is that baking these muffins made me happy. It’s time well-spent – a small gift I can give to myself. It’s something we don’t do for ourselves nearly often enough, sometimes even when we do have the time. Between all the things that really must  be taken care of and all the ways we can lose our time to distractions (and here, I repeat, the internet), what about the things that fulfill us? Whether that be writing, art, music, gardening, baking, crafting, restoring furniture, reading a good book … what about spending a little extra quality time with loved ones/pets … whatever it is, why not give it to ourselves?

Speaking for myself, it doesn’t really take much to make me happy, a trait that I am enormously grateful for. My guess is there’s probably a whole lot of little things that make you happy, too. Be kind to yourself; allow yourself to be happy, and enjoy those little things.

p.s. The muffins? Maybe a bit more chocolate chips than I need. I had already cut down from 12 to 9 oz. Ghirardelli’s Dark Chocolate Mini Chips (what I had on hand), but 6 oz. would certainly be enough. Other than that? Mouthwateringly delicious and worth every second making them. Yum!

 

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… is today, February 13th. Not every year, for it falls on the same day as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, whatever you want to call it. It’s the day before Lent. And while giving up something for Lent is not a tradition I partake in, I do like the idea of Mardi Gras.

 

And breakfast for dinner? Really, how far wrong can you go? `Nuff said!

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The Winter Olympics are here, and I’m a fan! Make no mistake, I am not a sporty person, but I greatly admire and appreciate the athletes that compete and achieve in sports. I also only watch the Winter Olympics for a fairly ridiculous reason. They do stuff that in my wildest dreams, I could never do.

See this? Wayyyy too high in the air. Not happening!

And this? Downhill racing. Do you know how fast these people are going?? In a car maybe … out there all by myself? Never!

And then this … I am a highly coordinated person, but the grace combined with athleticism of figure skating? Not that coordinated! Or brave.

So the Winter Olympics are filled with challenge after challenge that I can only vaguely imagine, and they get me cheering on each competitor, whether in the snow or on the ice.

Now does this mean that I don’t appreciate the accomplishments of the Summer Olympics competitors? Not at all. They are all amazing athletes, too, but here’s that ridiculous reason I mentioned earlier. I can imagine myself doing – or have participated in – those sports. Of course, not on their  level of achievement, but … I can swim; (well, I can’t high dive); I can run; even the gymnastics – I was a cheerleader (yes, that still surprises me, too) for years and have the battle scars to prove it.

I could never be – or could have been – anywhere near as phenomenally accomplished as those in the Summer Olympics, but if I’m going to park myself in front of a TV for a couple weeks, well … I want to trip the light fantastic.

Let the games begin!

 

 

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It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without something a little sweet, right? How about an adorable pied Frenchie who’s discovered some just-frosted sugar cookies? (And is about to do something very naughty!) That’s sweet x 2!

Order these sweet French Bulldog Valentine’s Day cards in my Etsy shop and put a smile on the faces of the special someone(s) in your life.

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Some guilty part of me feels that I should be writing something patriotic as it’s the anniversary of our wonderful country – Happy Birthday, America! – but alas, I finally have a bit of time to write and I have some other rambling thoughts. Like about the nectar of the gods.

Coffee. And how it’s made.

Not everyone feels that a cup of joe is the nectar of the gods, but as far as I’m concerned, you can keep your wine, beer, aged scotch, tea and (heaven forbid) soda. I’ll take coffee.

It’s not the caffeine, it’s the flavor. I like good quality coffee, and I like making it the same way I’ve been making it since I first began brewing my own – with a Chemex coffee pot. Years ago, long before Keurig and the vast array of coffee makers that electronically brew your coffee on a timer, there were some simple coffee makers, drip coffee pots, and a few other options. At the time, Consumer Reports evaluated all the means of making coffee and ranked the Chemex number one for flavor with the French press right behind.

With special filters manufactured by Chemex, all bitterness is removed from the coffee as you pour boiling water over the measured grounds. People have commented on how good this coffee is which I credit to the Chemex method. (OK, and the fact that I’m willing to spend a bit more on well-crafted and sustainably-sourced coffee.)

But here’s what’s funny. Like so many other things in life, this method is now having a revival! Having once fallen out of favor except with its many devotees, and having been (unintentionally) kicked to the curb by Keurig, this method of brewing can now be found in restaurants all over, and it’s known as “pour-over” coffee. Uh-huh. Rewind! Welcome to my world, guys. Live long enough – and I’m not that old – and you will see everything come around again from platform shoes to tie-dye shirts to troll dolls.

But in this case, it’s a real benefit to those of us for whom our cuppa joe will always be the nectar of the gods. Cheers!

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